I was a ten-year-old, but the memories of the '62 debacle are eidetically etched in my mind; that feeling of helplessness of the elders, their sense of shame, the silent imprecations, the muted curses in private but dignified poise in public, were a temporal marker in the growth of my consciousness as an Indian.
When I was young, I crossed my rivers,
sprinting down bridges,
though bridges there were none.
The poor of the world have a nasty habit of disturbing the even tenor of ordered life, the status quo; they threaten the peace and calm when it is least expected of them. As if it was not labour enough for the governments, in centre and in the states, to have evacuated several lacs of those better off Indians by aircrafts and ships, this problem of migrant labours leaps up.
A very eminent professor of economics at Cambridge, of Indian origin, with whom I conversed once or twice, tweeted to an absolute excess on the disproportionate focus on Covid-19, quoting the number of deaths from other causes to make his point. So, I engaged him one day. It was not its capacity to kill, but the anxiety on account of instant contagion, that has brought down this world.
The closing lines of The Plague by Albert Camus's "the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city," just about sum up the attitude of a medicalised society which treats all of germs , pathogens , microbe , lonely, lost strands of RNA are its sworn enemies.
As is customary, when I visited my grandchildren this time round, I asked them for their wish list of books. The younger one, all of nine years, said she wants nothing but Roald Dahl. She has read them all and she thinks that, that is all there is to good writing.
‘Garibi Hatao’, a slogan that Mrs. Gandhi deployed to reap electoral dividends is still a blue-chip issue and Mr. Rahul Gandhi has discovered the magical properties of the mantra, never mind that more than fifty years (out of which Congress was in power for forty and the BJP, in its turn, was too busy catering to the ultra-rich) have elapsed between the two initiatives.
Tulsi Das's memorable line, "Jaa Kee Rahi Bhavana Jaisee, Prabhu Moorat Dekhi Tinh Tasie" (God in his incarnate form appeared to his devotees in whichever image they wanted him to manifest), can be said to be a universal and timeless rule of perception; you see, what you want to see.
Rilke, the German poet, in one of his letters to his beloved Lou Andreas - Salome said “Now I come to you full of future. And from habit we begin to live our past.”
Several years back in an article “That Pantomime Artist Known as Police” published in Indian Express (I was fond of seeing my name in papers in those years) I wrote, “The growing ineffectiveness of state police forces in the face of powerful offenders creates a demand for CBI investigation. This occurs even in cases which are well within the professional and logistic competence of the state police. The CBI itself becomes eminently vulnerable to charges of bias once the affairs of the Central Government become the subject matter of enquiry. The state police forces are well on way to being reduced to a level where they will be good for nothing but ceremonial parades and watch and ward duties and a day may come when the CBI too may face an erosion of credibility. Who shall we turn to then? Interpol, the FBI, or Scotland Yard?"
The Emergency made a hero out of George Fernandes. Shackled but defiant, holding aloft the chains that bound him in captivity, he became the symbol of resistance of the free and indomitable human spirit that does not yield to dictators and autocrats.
Randhir Verma, I.P.S (Bihar R R 1974) Superintendent of Police (SP) was martyred in an encounter with terrorists who were trying to loot a bank in Dhanbad twenty-seven years ago.
Disclaimer: I am sorry, this time round I shall not be able to tell you whether I am being serious or comical? I myself don’t know.